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WILPF Side Event: Reassessing Women's Rights in Pakistan

2 November 2012

Yesterday we had the pleasure of having two excellent guest panelists from Pakistan offer their expertise in our UPR side event “Women’s Rights in Pakistan: Status, Challenges and Possible Solutions”.

Moderated by WILPF International’s own María Muñoz Maraver, the event shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of the review of Pakistan’s report by the UN UPR mechanism and provided recommendations on how to implement the recommendations issued by this mechanism.

Progress Made?

The first panelist Fauzia Viqar, from the women’s resource center Shirkat Gah, offered a context setting on the situation of women’s human rights in Pakistan.

While she did recognize that Pakistan has made some meaningful progress in women’s rights, even some of the apparent progress can be misleading.

For instance some laws protecting women from domestic violence as well as acid and burn crimes have been passed, but the law only applies in the capital city. These types of legislation are certainly insufficient, to say the least.

Other laws that are in place are not implemented or have such meager penalties that there is no deterrent to break them. For instance, child marriage has been outlawed, but continues to be practiced given that there is only a small fine and a one-month jail sentence (if convicted).  What is worse is that the marriage is not even annulled after a conviction of it being illegal.

Even quotas requiring female involvement in the government are problematic in the fact that women are usually handpicked by prominent males relatives already involved in the government, meaning that the wider female perspective may still not be voiced.

Also the continued use of parallel judicial systems in some regions and the provisions such as Qisas and Diyats (which allow for a compromise or pardoning of a killer by the heirs of the deceased) encourage in practice the spread of the perpetration of honour killings which are then pardoned by own the family.

Furthermore, she revealed that the government hinders women’s right to security by not recognizing that there is armed conflict in the country. The use of the Security Council Resolution 1325 is crucial in this situation for the security of women and to establish a sustainable peace.

Our other panelist, Ayesha Taslim, from our Pakistan WILPF branch, voiced further concerns. She discussed the extraordinary position of women in rural settings who face major issues with getting equal land rights, voting rights, and pay for labour.

Recommendations for Improvement

Ayesha Taslim went on to offer recommendations to help remedy the problems in Pakistan. In terms of addressing state laws and procedures she suggested that police should be trained in gender sensitivity, the sale of pure acid should be banned and the age of marriage should be made the same for boys and girls to be 18 (currently the age is 18 for boys, but 16 for girls). Pure acid is being used in Pakistan to burn women’s faces as penalties for “crimes” such as indecency even though this use has been outlawed.

Furthermore she suggested that the international community could help by limiting arms sales to the region, especially when they are known for falling in the hands of civilians and terrorists and terrorizing women both within the household and in the streets.

These suggestions are important in moving toward a safer and more equal life for women in Pakistan. Overall, this event gave a more nuanced picture of the status of women in Pakistan than what we heard in the UPR, and can help guide us in taking steps in the future.

You can find WILPF’s recommendations for the UPR Pakistan here .


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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